Stroke: 15 minutes could save lives

Dishes take about 15 minutes; walking the dog about 30; mowing the lawn about 40; and preparing the family meal, up to one hour. But losing someone special in your life to stroke only takes an instant.

Each year, about 700,000 people have a stroke. About 500,000 are first-time attcks, and 200,000 are recurrent attacks. Yet, a recent poll showed less than 42 percent of people in the U.S. know one of the five warning signs, and only 39 percent said they will seek out information on stroke.

Stroke is the nation’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of serious disability. It can strike anyone. Spend some time with the American Stroke Association to learn about stroke and save those in your life the most precious thing—time with you.

You and your family can educate yourselves on stroke in less than 15 minutes. How? First, take action! In several minutes, you can:

Go with your loved one to get their blood pressure checked. If it’s 140/90 mm Hg or higher, help get it under control. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Ask your health care provider for guidance.

Get involved with Train To End Stroke, the American Stroke Association’s half- and full-marathon training program. You can complete a life-changing event on behalf of your family member while raising funds for stroke research.

Write a letter to your senator and representative to support the STOP Stroke Act. This legislation would authorize a grant program to help states have access to quality stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.

Take the Learn and Live Quiz. Answering 15 questions will give you personalized results to help identify cardiovascular health concerns and provide immediate educational information via the Web or mail by visiting americanheart.org or calling 1-888-AHA-CARES.

“Get the facts on stroke. Knowing the risk factors and recognizing the warning signs of stroke can reduce death and disability. Time is crucial when dealing with stroke,” said Kathleen Elliott, president of the American Heart Association’s Winnebago County Board of Directors. “The sooner you recognize the signs and the sooner you can call 9-1-1, the better the chance of recovery.” Each minute that passes means more brain cells die. Time lost is brain lost.

Next, spend a minute or two learning the warning signs of stroke. Quick detection and diagnosis can save lives. The warning signs of stroke are:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;

Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Finally, spend a few minutes learning if someone you love is at risk for stroke. Ask yourself these questions:

Do they have high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)?

Do they smoke?

Are they overweight or obese?

Do they get regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most or all days)?

Does anyone have diabetes?

Is there a family history of stroke?

Risk for stroke increases as people age, but high blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol levels and excessive drinking can be controlled or eliminated. Help your family take steps to control their risk factors.

In a total of 15 minutes, you have taken action against stroke, educated yourself on the stroke warning signs and identified your family’s risk factors. This small gift of time could make a huge difference in the years to come. Visit strokeassociation.org or call 1-888-4-STROKE for more information.

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